C.T. and Anna Swanson

Born December 8, 1862 in Ljung, Östergötland's Län, Sweden, Charley Swanson, at age 6, left Ljung Parish with his family on April 9, 1869. His father and mother, Karl August and Carolina Svensson/Swanson along with a younger brother John and sister Annie, departed from Göteborg, Sweden, traveling through Hull, England, to the port of New York with the intent of discovering a better life in the United States. (Swedish Emigration Record Code 1:71:684) His father, Karl, acted as clerk when some of the Swedish families sold their belongings and left for America. (Charley said Karl could figure quicker in his head than most men could with a pencil and paper.) Young Charley felt allright on the North Sea but when they headed out into the Atlantic Ocean he contracted the measles and was put into the pest house on the sailboat that was crossing the ocean.

The Swansons; husband Karl, wife Carolina, Charley- 6, John- 3, and Annie- not quite 1 year old, lived in a little house on the outskirts of Chicago in the town of Crete. Karl and a beeswarm of all nationalities of men dumped dirt with wheelbarrows on a new railroad bed. There was a creek nearby where Charley played with children and found goose and turkey eggs and floated them in the water. Carolina took young Charley to school where he got acquainted with other children and quickly learned the English language.

In the fall of 1869, the family left for St. Paul, MN. They, together with several other Swedes, rented a house by the Mississippi River. All of the families cooked on the same stove. During the winter, Karl got work clearing land for the building of a railroad between St. Paul and Lake Superior. Large trees were chopped down and a road cleared wide enough so two-yoke ox teams could get through with skids holding four tons of provisions. These provisions were piled up on high places along the way about ten to twelve miles apart. The sixty men were supposed to clear one mile each day. Getting behind schedule, they got double pay when they worked over-time. A cooking outfit followed the crew on skids also pulled by oxen. The men were given tin plates which the cooks filled up for them. Their fare was mostly dried peas, beans, pork and meat. The men sat on the four to five foot snowdrifts to eat, and sometimes it was so cold they had to keep their mittens on. After work at night, they would smoke and talk and when ready for bed they would tramp down a place in a snow-drift large enough in which to prepare their bed. They would put some evergreen branches into this space and cover the branches with a blanket. This was their bed with another blanket as a cover and a little tent or tepee over it to hold out the snow. Exhausted, these hard working men would sleep with their clothes on for extra warmth. Their hair and whiskers would grow long at the camp, and in the morning some of the men were sometimes froze fast to the snow and had to be chopped loose with an ax. Lice were a problem while living in these conditions and they would get so lousy they would have to boil their clothes. One of the Swedish men caught a cold and died and Karl was appointed to write and tell his family in the old country, sending the money that this man had. It was thought that Karl conducted the funeral services. He was a gifted Christian man. While the way for the railroad was being cleared up toward Lake Superior, the Indians came around by the hundreds, many wanted to buy tobacco. The Indians had snow-shoes that some of the men bought from them. When the men got their pay and left, they had to look out for robbers. When a company that Karl was in left the camp, the robbers were after them, later on a hand car on the track too, but the workers hid in the woods and outwitted the thieves. They found a man with his hands tied around a tree not as lucky.

While living by the Mississippi River, a bachelor and seven year old Charley went driving on the ice of the Mississippi River after wood. The ice under some snow broke and their horse fell through. The horse tried to get up but the ice kept breaking. Charley held the horse while the man unhitched it. Several men pushed down a ladder under the horse and saved the animal allowing him to get his footing. Charley played with boys on the logs, some 30 feet long, that floated down the river on the way to the sawmill. Once he stepped on a large bark thinking it was a log and he went down into the Mississippi River. He didn't remember how he got out.

Karl wanted to homestead outside of St. Paul where Minneapolis is now located, but Carolina wanted to go to Lansing, IA where her brother, Peter Newberg, worked on a farm. When spring came and the ice on the Mississippi River was gone, the family boarded a steamboat and went to Lansing, IA. Karl's family moved in with another family at Lansing. Peter had a sweetheart, Anna Olson, and they would go to Karl's house for a courting meeting place in the evenings, then they would go out strolling. Charley, then a little chap, thought it interesting to follow them, but he was soon chased home. Anna and Peter soon married.

Karl and Carolina, still in their 30's, and this newly married couple wanted to homestead. These folks started out westward in a covered wagon in search of a homestead, and each couple had one horse, one cow and two hens. They drove from Lansing across the Iowa prairie on through Storm Lake, Buena Vista County, to Sioux City, and into Nebraska. When they had traveled two or three days into Nebraska, they camped near a creek, stopping to rest and eat. Soon they noticed two covered wagons coming from the west. When the covered wagons came near, the group stopped and listened. They could hear that the camping party talked Swedish. A man climbed down from one of the covered wagons and went over to the camping party. They looked him over and stared, he was their old neighbor from Sweden! It was a joyous reunion, they didn't drive any farther that day but talked and talked. This neighbor came from the west in Nebraska, and he told them that it was so hot and dry with drought out there, that they were moving away. Karl decided not to go further west, as he had intended to go out where this neighbor was. Feeling lucky they met, Karl's party turned around and went back to Sioux City with this neighbor. Here the group separated, this neighbor went east and our party went north. Our relatives never heard what became of this neighbor.

Karl bought a preemption claim in Sioux City, 160 acres of land, nine miles north of now Canton, SD, in Lincoln County, then Dakota Territory in 1870. When he paid for it he had $1.00 left and half a sack of flour. He did not have much in earthly possession but he did have a pioneer's courage, faith in God and a good will.

Twins were born in the covered wagon, before a home was built, who were Sophie (Mrs. August Westling) and David (who died within a year). They walked and carried his little body about ten miles for burial in a Norwegian cemetery across the Sioux River. (Now near rural Inwood, IA).

A one room sod house was built on the land and a hay stable for the cow and horses. The Swanson's land adjoined the Big Sioux River from whose timbered slopes received wood to burn and build with. Karl farmed, at first using a scythe for harvesting.

The first winter Karl went to work chopping wood thirty miles south of Sioux City and left his young wife and children with half a sack of flour and a little corn. They used corn soup to live on. The earth from the sod had sunk down from the roof and Indians would come peering down into the sod house. The Indians never hurt them, yet Carolina kept an ax beside her bed. As years went on Karl would find beads and Indians trinkets where badgers had dug up Indian bones, yet with gristle on. Near springs, the ground was covered with buffalo skeletons, and buffalo were shot by the Missouri River. In the spring Karl walked home about 80 miles from Sioux City. A neighbor on the Iowa side of the river, John Long, walked about 245 miles home from St. Paul, MN where he had found work. It would take a week to make the trip to Sioux City, usually to get provisions. There were two homesteads on the way, the one sod house built over the line of two quarters of land, and each homesteader sleeping in his end of the sod house. Mrs. Peterson, a widow from Valley Springs, SD, was said to have carried a sack of flour from Sioux City to her homestead.

The Swansons moved on an adjoining homestead about a mile south, near a spring in a hillside on the Dakota side of the Sioux River and a log house, which still stands (1997) and other buildings were built. They lived in a dugout about two years waiting for money to get wood for the floors and ceiling for the log house. About one year after coming to Dakota, they traded the partnership horses for one yoke young and one yoke old oxen, and divided. Peter Newberg and his family made their home about one mile north of Karl and Carolina's place.

To keep prairie fires away, the Swansons plowed a furrow around their dwelling place, then they left a space of grass and plowed another furrow. The space of grass between the plowed furrows was burned and became a protection against fierce prairie fires. Wood thieves would steal wood from the timbered river area. They came from the west prairie with wagons. Karl now acquired forty more acres of land through a timber claim.

Two more boys were later born but died without a doctor when each was about one year old (they died in the winter and their bodies were put in a snow bank by the wagon to help identify their placement for spring thaws) and were later buried in a burial plot, on John Juul's father's virgin land, about three miles south of their homestead. Mary and August were also born and became the youngest living of nine children born to the couple.

From the river, as the years went on, they received quantities of plums for sauce, grapes, gooseberries and chokecherries. They swam, dove, boated, skated, chopped wood, trapped, fished seined, hunted, picked fruit and picnicked about the river. The children traveled three miles to school. When herding cattle across the river the children would catch hold of the cows' tails when swimming across the river and thus be towed across the river. The boys of the neighborhood, as settlers came, would practice swimming and diving, bringing up a hand of sand from the bottom of the river. Once when Charley was going down for sand alone he came up under a canopy of roots of a large tree. He hunted for some time and almost drowned under the root arms before he found a way out.

In his youth Charley snared rabbits and helped with the fish-trap in the river, when he was older he sold fish to people in Sioux Falls and bought provisions in C.K. Howard's store (located on the northwest corner of the intersection of Phillips Ave. and 10th St.) in Sioux Falls, SD. Charley saved nine lives from drowning in the Sioux River, including Dr. O.M. Norlie, a professor at Luther College, Decorah, IA, noted writer and educator. Among these, one large man got up on top of him and he had to swim towards the bottom of the river to get away from him before he could get a pole and save him from drowning.

He became a U.S. citizen September 19, 1887, through the Clerk of the District Court, Lincoln County, Dakota Territory. At age 24, Charley worked in the fall of 1887, on a railroad bed when the Illinois Central railroad was put through to Sioux Falls. He started "baching" in the spring of 1888 with Phillip Jacobson (later his brother-in-law), building a one room shanty in Iowa costing $12.00. The shanty was positioned across the river from his parents home, and they rented three quarters of land for breaking the sod. Once Charley cashed a check for $10. in Sioux Falls. Two suspicious looking men followed him as he drove his buggy away from the bank. Once out of the city limits the chase took place with the would be robbers giving up once Charley crossed the Sioux River on his way home to safety.

In 1888, America experienced a great blizzard. The day started, as most blizzard days do, with very mild, spring-like conditions but by afternoon the skies were blackened with heavy clouds loaded with moisture. The storm struck the Dakotas, Iowa, and Minnesota, all the way down to Texas. The winds howled and the snow came down heavily as the temperatures dropped. In this era before modern, high-tech weather forecasting, people were caught off guard and many got lost and froze to death. When the great blizzard of 1888 came, in which so many people lost their lives and so much livestock died, Charley Swanson, Phillip Jacobson and August Newberg were in Sioux Falls. Mrs. Ringdahl had invited the men in for coffee when the blizzard struck, where they remained until the black blizzard broke of its fury. They afterwards drove slowly from Sioux Falls across the country over the snowdrifts which were over the fences, the horses lunging up to get up on the snow drifts, breaking through, and then sinking down to rest. Some men had taken refuge during the blizzard under a sled box turned upside down. In the spring, frozen cattle were standing on high pillars of snow and ice. During the flood of the spring of 1888 when the river was about a mile wide in places with rushing currents and waves, the Banning Mill near East Sioux Falls came floating down the river. Charley Swanson and his brother John boated out to it and tied it by its lighting rods to poles they had driven down into the Iowa side river banks. There were seasons of hard times, grasshoppers and drought.

Charley's father would gather his family together on Sunday afternoons and read the sermon for that Sunday. He would send for books, written by early evangelists and read. The Swanson home was a Christian home.

Anna Swanson came from Ljung Parish in O:stergo:tland, Sweden in 1887 when she was 23 years old. The Swedish scenery she left was beautiful filled with memories of picking lingonberries in the woods and listened to "goken" cuckooing in the treetops. Her father would take her to Linko:ping to sell "laduga*rds koppar" (wooden containers) which he had made during the winter. Having a Christian upbringing, Anna was confirmed in the parish church seven miles from her home. She went to a schoolmaster who also taught the Bible and who lived in a wing of the schoolhouse. Anna knew about hard work as she helped in the grain fields when she was in her teens. As a young woman she cooked for a lieutenant at Ko:penhamn's Fa:stting (a fort) and worked for families of the nobility in Sweden. She worked for Lo:jtnannt Sjenstro:m at Karlsborg's Fa:stning, and also for another wealthy family for $30. a year and a pair of shoes. She became an excellent cook. Anna's brothers and sisters all married in the U.S. After coming to America she worked for some time in Valley Springs, SD at a hotel kept by a family by the name of Binghams. She also took in dress-making in Canton, SD. Her parents, Adolph and Greta Swanson, came to the U.S. in the spring of 1889, they were the first Swedish-Americans in their new community (Valley Springs Township, Minnehaha County, SD) to celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary in 1910.

Charley married Anna September 3, 1888, by Justice of the Peace Nels Simons at Rowena, SD. Witnessing the marriage were Charley's bachelor/partner Phillip Jackson/Jacobson and his sister Annie Swanson (this pair married at a later date). The ceremony was followed by a nice marriage supper prepared by Mrs. Simons in the Simons home. Upon their marriage-drive to the shanty (south of the old Gilmer Hildring farm) the wheel fell off the wagon. Anna papered the walls in the shanty with newspapers. She got a floor into the shanty for Christmas, their first winter they had $10. to live on.

Charley broke the sod and planted flax. Anna helped break the sod and wore her dress off on the grasslands side. Plowing and harvesting alongside her husband was common practice for early pioneer women. Charley ended up renting five quarters of land with sod broken on these five quarters, sowing flax and wheat. He was offered the quarter of land that the shanty was built on for $7.00 an acre, but he choose not to buy it.

After two years, Charley rented land five miles northeast of there along a valley on both sides of Blood Run Creek, section 20 and 21 Sioux Township, which had a spring, where he eventually established an extensive livestock raising, feeding and agricultural farm. When they first arrived, he had a herd of 1200 cattle for grazing from various distant owners. He bought and moved a "granary" to a hilltop north of the Rock Island railroad tract on section 20 and moved to live in the granary, building a sloping flat-roofed barn, a tree branches with straw roof shed, and an angle-shaped roof barn. Later they built and moved to a house with two bedrooms, combined living room and dining room and with a summer kitchen where the three oldest children Mabel, Emil and Phoebe were born. The extra hired men slept upstairs in the granary.

Built in 1901, on section 21, the new Swanson home, where the fourth child Elmer was born, had 5 bedrooms upstairs, and a parlor, living room and 16 by 16 foot kitchen-dining room with a large pantry, and 2 bedrooms downstairs. Later the house was remodeled with a bathroom upstairs, a sleeping porch added on the east side, south to his youngest daughter Phoebe's room, a hot air furnace put in, and electric lights. Charlie built a large horse-cow barn, sheds and chicken house west across the road on section 20. He made a feed lot area south of the house with various sheds, feeders, corn cribs, granary and a hog house. At one time he farmed and grazed about 2000 acres, cutting wheat and some oats and barley with four binders, and in corn-husking time had up to 6 men picking corn. He had a well, grounded in an artery of water, which watered hundreds of feeding steers, hogs and calves. The ruts of the early overland stage coach trail could be seen in what was once his sheep pasture. During crop times (plowing, harrowing, cultivating, harvesting, shocking having been done) two sets of men - one in each of two stacks and two men loading with horses and hauling bundles in two hay racks (totaling six men) for oats or barley stacking for later threshing. About six men would pick corn in each of their wagons. John Anderson and Axel Juul worked the longest in years for the Swansons.

Anna cooked for the hired men and housed them, having movable beds and mattresses for the nine extra men during threshing time in the home's upstairs. She cooked meals for her family and the hired men, having a table set for 14, businessmen usually came for the noon dinner. She washed and ironed clothes and mended - also for the hired men. Besides her tremendous work running a home, she also had the church services by Rev. J. F. Wretlof and other pastors in their home for some years. She helped found the Ladie's Aid, handling its sewing for auctions, was its president for seven years, had mission meetings, Christmas programs, Ladie's Aid auctions at their home and prompted the building of the Covenant Church and the buying of a parsonage in Granite. A large blue block quilt with a yellow star in each square was made with people paying to have their names sewn in red on points of the yellow stars. The Ladie's Aid auctioned the quilt off and it was bought by Charlie Long for $60.00! In 1912, Charley and Anna helped build and were charter members in the Grandview Covenant Mission Church of Granite, IA, Charley served as trustee of the church board for several years. It was the first Covenant church in the area.

About 400 quarts of apples grown in their own orchard, from button fruit and plums and gooseberries picked in the surrounding hillside and pastures were canned in one summer. It was normal to can 200 glasses of jelly from grapes and chokecherries picked in the area. The family had a large garden and raised 22 geese and 36 ducks and over 200 chickens one year. Talented Anna also loom-wove carpets for many rooms of her home. A busy lifestyle that surrounded her families wellbeing.

Charley was a prominent farmer and stockman. He was directly connected with the banking business in the Granite and Larchwood communities, being bank president for about 42 years. He was president of the Security Savings Bank of Larchwood from 1931 to 1953. O. E. Holly and R. W. Wyant were cashiers at the banks. He was a trustee of the Sioux township board for several years and also served on the school board. He took part as officer in various civic township affairs. Charley along with his brother August, would organize special trainload trips with fatted steers to the Chicago livestock market. Charleys financial intuition helped develop his extensive estate, including about 16 quarters of land.

Trips enjoyed by the Swansons were to see cousin Olive and her family, the J.E. Nelsons, at McPherson, KS, also stopping to see the Covenant church in Omaha, NE. A car trip in 1923 through the northern woods to see Anna's neighbor and girl friend when in Sweden, now Mrs. Peter Anderson, with her family at Wallace, Mich, and driving around North Park College in Chicago, IL where their three youngest children had attended school was a special treat.

Anna and Charley built their last home in 1931, a great contrast to their first humble home, on the same home farm in which to retire (to the east). This new home was not enjoyed by Anna for long as she died at Sioux Valley Hospital in Sioux Falls, SD from kidney trouble at about 69 years old. She was the loved and loving, helping partner and mother in the lives of the Swanson family. Charley and Anna had been married over 44 years when Anna was called to The Beyond in November of 1932.

Charley was a widower for over seven years when he found a helpful and loving companion in Miss Delma Pruitt of Larchwood, Iowa, a Sunday school superintendent, choir singer and school teacher, and remarried March 2, 1940.

Charles Theodore Swanson passed away at the Sioux Valley Hospital in Sioux Falls, SD, at the age of 91 years, 7 months and 15 days after an eight day illness, having been very active all of his life. He lived in the vicinity of Granite and Larchwood for 66 years.

Swedish rhyme sung by C.T.S. while he was foot trundling the grandchildren:

  Rida, rida ranka,   Ride, ride, straight-backed
  Hästen heter Blanka   The horse is named Blanka
  Vart skall vi rida,   Where shall we ride
  Hem till att fria,   Home to make a propose
  Hos en Liten piga,   To a little maid
  Vad skall hon heta,   What's her name
  Anna Maja Greta,   Anna Maja Greta
  Den tjoka ock feta,   The thick and fat
  Nar vi kom dit,   When we got there
  Var det ingen hemma,   There was nobody home
  Mei än två små,   More than two small
  hundar, som,   dogs who
  Stog under bänken,   sat under the bench
  Ock hamla på,   [not sure about this]
  hänken ock grala   And howling
  Woof, woof, woof.,   Woof, woof, woof."

Charles T. Swanson obituary,
in THE LYON COUNTY REPORTER,Thursday, July 29, 1954

C.T. and Anna Swanson along with their four children are laid to rest at the Grandview Covenant Cemetery overlooking the Sioux River Valley in northwestern Lyon County.

*Excerpts and adaptations from "Father's Pioneer Days" written by Mabel, Emil, and Elmer Swanson and Phoebe Swanson Johnson in 1942 for their father Charley Swanson and "Mother's Work" by Mabel Swanson in 1976. Additional notes from grandson Calvin Johnson and great granddaughter Diane Johnson.

Photo and story provided by Diane Johnson

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